Megan Taylor

front-end dev, volunteacher, news & data junkie, bibliophile, Flyers fan, sci-fi geek and kitteh servant

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Journalism Curriculum

Somehow, not being in school anymore just makes me more interested in the evolution of curriculum at journalism schools.

No, it’s not a subconscious desire to teach. I’ve not the temperament for that.

But I’ve been collecting information about what’s being taught, perhaps in the hopes that they’ll teach something I don’t know, thereby giving me an excuse to go back to school.

My, that sounds arrogant. But I only mean that I’ve been through the traditional journalism curriculum, took some online media courses and taught myself a hell of a lot in my spare time.

Bryan Murley updated his syllabus for the multimedia course he teaches at Eastern Illinois University.

Most of the syllabus is the same as it was during the last semester, however, I’m spending much more time on audio and video, with lots of repetition and building upon core concepts.

Also, I should note that we’re using Final Cut Express this semester instead of iMovie. I’m done with iMovie until it is more stable and edits audio easier.

Andrew Dunn reports changes to the curriculum at the University of North Carolina, which now requires a class called “Audio-Video Information Gathering.” The UNC curriculum includes specializations choices of Multimedia and Electronic Communication (whatever that is).

Through University of Florida fact-finding professor Cory Armstrong, I found out about a new course at UNC: Public Affairs Reporting For New Media.

As near as I can tell, students in the course pick a topic for the semester and do some in-depth research, including multi-media elements, to develop a package.

The professor, Ryan Thornburg, is blogging about the class.

This is one that I’m really interested in, since I did something similar as an independent study with Professor Armstrong.

Fred Stutzman, also at UNC, has been teaching Online Social Networks for several semesters now.

This course is a primer on the study of online social networks. We will explore the theory, methods and findings of a growing literature on the topic. We will also explore applications and use cases, particularly in the context of education and library/information services. While online social networks are but a subset of social software, this course should provide you a strong set of fundamentals for exploring the multiple facets of our pervasive online sociality.

Mindy McAdams is teaching a new multimedia reporting class at UF as well as updating her Flash class (Advanced Online Media Production).

Students taking Multimedia Reporting will learn to:

  • Gather digital audio and upload it to a computer
  • Edit digital audio and produce an MP3 file
  • Edit, crop and resize photos; optimize photos for online use
  • Create an audio slideshow using Soundslides
  • Shoot simple video suitable for online distribution
  • Edit video with a simple editing program
  • Prepare video for online distribution

Lastly, at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, changes are planned.

The new, proposed curriculum shift places a deeper, more thorough emphasis on awareness, understanding and application of online journalism skills and the training begins in the freshman year.

Stories CoJMC students write, photographs, advertising, marketing campaigns, video news reports and documentaries will be produced by hundreds of CoJMC students for the NewsNetNebraska Web site.

For those of us no longer in school and feeling left out, Dave Lee wrote about how journalists can continue their online education, well, online.

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The Next Newsroom Conference

Yesterday was the first day of the Next Newsroom Conference, with keynote speakers and panels and all kinds of good discussion. Unfortunately, I missed the first couple of speakers, but Greg Linch totally has my back: check out his complete coverage of yesterday.

My notes from Randy Covington’s speech:
Newsplex:
Its not about formats or technology but on stories
cover stories across media
stories are better because of audio, video, community interactivity
we live in a mutli-media world
people are using media in diff ways

TRAINING

newsrooms will be different: no more assembly line
Edipresse – cubicles and open space 2002-2003

New roles for full media newsroom

Newsflow editor: story
directs coverage across formats and delivery services
integrates multiple products under unified editorial brand
service to a broad range of news consumers
multiskilled journalist: content
able to work in diff formats and do diff things (video, text, graphics, audio, photos and interactivity)
NOT EVERYONE NEEDS TO BE THIS – BUT – bring in MORE multiskilled people who like to shape and control their own work
news resourcer: context
informatics journalist/editor
apply news judgement with understand of informational landscape
cybrarian, not news librarian
google is not good enough
story builder: experience
one editor handles story for all mediums
combines roles of print copy editor and broadcast producer
convergence organizational models:
Tampa Tribune

Nordjyske – denmark was dying, needed to reinvent, created an all-news cable channel on model of old cnn news, dont need lots of people
NOW – free papers, local papers, the news channel, 2 radio stations and a web site with 248 jous
editors for each medium refine the content
editorial depts serve all media
NOT one size fits all
started charging for tours, jous all over were willing to pay
super desk: groups for diff mediums in open space with editorial mtg place in the center

Daily Telegraph – london
24-hr digital multimedia newsroom
story components integrated from the start
three job titles: reporter, editor, producer
hub and spoke system for organization of newsroom

I’ll come back later and clean up the formatting on that. After Covington there was a panel discussion responding to questions posed by the audience through Twitter. So I stopped taking notes and made my commentary there instead. I’ll round that up into something cohesive later today as well. But you can check out the continuing conversation on Twitter.

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Applied Interactive Newspapers

The online capstone course, Applied Interactive Newspapers, is built to work like an internship.

There are 6 students in the class this semester. Each of us is responsible for pulling in 7 stories each week, from The New York Times or AP wire.

These stories are published on Newszine, the Interactive Media Lab’s news Web site.

Recently, in addition to the 7 stories, we were assigned a multimedia requirement. Each week, 2 Soundslides and 2 videos will be published to the site along with our stories, with labor divided among the staff.

It was my turn to do a video this week. I chose to do a video tutorial for using Soundslides. I wrote out my script and talked to my partner, Matt Gonzalez, about the shots. We set the camera up and also set the editing computer up for screen-casting.

Then I did my thing. I’m not particularly pleased with the outcome. I get massive stage fright as soon as the camera’s watching, even though I’m only on the screen for a few seconds.

But I learned a lot from this. I should have run through my actions a few times before I did it for the camera. It also could have done with a little more editing.

In any case, I’m learning a lot about video and editing, so by the time I graduate I should be pretty good at this.

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SNDBoston: Storytelling in Print and Multimedia

Kelli Sullivan from the Los Angeles Times and Jenn Crandall of onBeing from the Washington Post.

Tell stories with graphics (example: show how trailer sways occur, graphics in print, flash online; break stories up into sections for layout)
– instead of scattered graphics, use sequentially to tell story
– figure out goals of editors and find creative ways to achieve them
– work closely with photo editors
– keep communication flowing: make sure you have the space you need, communicate with Web people as you learn things

Edit ruthlessly: edit for redundancy, keep it simple, let photos help pace the story
Build on the unique aspects of the story
Are graphics accessible, do they forward the story?
Develop multiple versions if there is time
Can breaking design rules help the project?

Solicit feedback!! But maintain independence/objectivity.

Jenn Crandall is freaked out by not being a designer, too! She’s a still photographer and videographer.
Oh yes! My favorite OnBeing character, Gio Escalante. Cute little kids for the win.
Focus on the characters: clean design, make it all about the person.
Lots of questions about this project: editing, equipment, traffic and response, transfer to print (there is currently not a print version).

I’m beginning to understand and appreciate the “these are my designs” trend. I think it depends on how the lecturer explains the design. Thinking about how to take some of this layout stuff online. Also, how to work more closely with various editors to anticipate online projects. onBeing is a perfect example that newspapers need to provide more than what we normally define as news.

I found this checklist in my archives somewhere, but have no idea where it originated (Bryan, is this you again?). A lot of these things we aren’t doing or are just starting at The Alligator with our three-week-old CMS, but I thought a run-through the list now will make it that much more impressive when I check again in a few months.

Is your web team able to flex work hours, responsibilities and skills?

My team rocks! We have been putting in all kinds of crazy hours to get our new CMS running smoothly and get new articles up each day. We are an assorted bunch with varying skill sets, so we can handle just about anything that gets thrown our way.

Do you need freelancers or others in the newsroom that can sit in and help publish the massive stream of content you’ll have?
(I really shouldn’t need to say this in August 2007 but…) Is your newsroom logistically ready to file and edit for the web before print?

I really wish we had some more hands around the office. The Web site is up before the papers hit the streets each morning, but only just. I wish we could be updating all day, but as a student-run paper, it is difficult to work around classes and other schedules. This is an area we need to work really hard in.

Do you have some sort of tools (forums, message boards or databases) for family/friend contacts if people are missing, databasing opening/closings or any other searchable, community information opportunities?

Nothing yet. There’s only three of us working full-time, hopefully we can get started on some really cool projects soon.

Do you have a breaking news blog ready at the flick of a switch?

Our new blogs should be up next week, and will include a breaking news section.

Does your site have an ‘armageddon’ design? (So that you can drop a package above the fold for massive news with huge images and headline fonts?)

The top story on our front page always has a big headline and a photo, so this doesn’t seem to be a problem.

Is all of your reporting staff skilled in editing and filing remotely for stories, photos, audio and video? Do they regularly do it? (Believe me, working tech support remotely can sometimes be more frustrating that not having any extra multimedia content from the scene.)

Nope. We can do it, but reporters have not been trained yet.

Is your workflow streamlined and standardized so that turning multimedia content quickly is easy?

I’ve been really excited when a reporter or photographer takes the initiative to grab video, audio, or photos. But then my team has to go in early to edit and put things together.

Have you explored the social media tools already available out there so that you can use to connect people with information?

We are working on a Facebook application as well as a Google gadget, but these are not available yet. We do have article tools for sharing with Facebook, Digg, etc.

What about social contributions to maps? What about social sharing of news tips? What about social sharing of photos, video, audio? How are you going to solicit, retain and manage all that social stuff? (An email account and one body probably won’t cut it.)

No, no, no, and I have no idea. But someday…

Even tech issues like, do you have the bandwidth available to handle getting slammed? What can you jettison in times of emergency to make your site move faster? (For instance, Roanoke, cut some of their ad serving during the Virginia Tech shootings to keep the site trudging on.) Have you talked among department leaders about this plan? Who’s mission control? Who’s below that? Is this plan written down somewhere and reviewed occasionally among all the staff?

I’ve never seen the site go down due to bandwidth, though we have been having some other problems with the servers. But minimizing if a rush occurred should be pretty easy. We don’t have any formal plan, my staff and I would make a judgment call and implement it.

So, this checklist makes us seem kinda pathetic. I wish I could give long, glowing, positive answers to every question. I hope that when I go back through at the end of this semester, I can at least stop saying, “Well, no, but we’re working on it.”

Early this week I wrote about the progress of The Independent Florida Alligator as an online media site.

I left out something very important: Although our writers are not writing specifically for the Web, (and I’m not sure how this would work at other papers, are they writing two versions of the same article?) our Copy Desk Chiefs spend some time each night writing different headlines for online articles. Instead of being cute or clever, they try to get at what each article is about. And they try to apply some SEO principles. It’s very cool.

On another note, I just opened Google Reader. And oh, my god, it can count past 100. And it has a search box. I’m so happy!

This is the last post in the Classes in Review series. A new semester is starting next week, and I’m going to try to keep up with writing about my classes here.

I’ve loved almost all of my journalism classes so far. And my professors are some of the most passionate, dynamic people I know. I’ve got one year left, and then I’ll be writing from the real world. Hopefully, I’ll be writing from a newsroom, and I’ll be surrounded by passionate, dynamic people.

Reporting taught me AP Style, tenacity and flexibility. Applied Fact Finding opened up a new world of information for me to explore. I learned how to think like an editor and use that to make me a better journalist in Advanced Editing. And Advanced Online Media showed me one path that I’d really like to follow.

I hope this last year of college is as fulfilling as the past three have been.

Classes in Review series:

Advanced Online Media
Applied Fact Finding
Reporting
Advanced Editing pt3
Advanced Editing pt2
Advanced Editing
Preview

Advanced online media was one of my favorite classes, because it finally hit my level of geek. I was honing my CSS skills, learning Flash, and talking about online journalism…all the things that make me excited. Even better, the famous Mindy McAdams was our professor.

I was really nervous about Flash at first, because I can’t draw. One of the things I have difficulty getting my head around is that I don’t have to be able to do everything. Not only is it easy to create basic shapes in Flash, but most newspapers have graphic design artists. I got a lot more comfortable when we hit ActionScript. Even though my programming is at an elementary level, I still recognize the properties of the languages. That made ActionScript fairly easy to understand, even if implementing it still gets buggy now and then.

Our projects involved basic animations which became more involved as we learned the different things Flash can do. Motion, buttons, slide shows, until we had to put together a slide show with audio. The culmination was a web portfolio to be graded on design and scripting practices.

Classes in Review series:

Applied Fact Finding
Reporting
Advanced Editing pt3
Advanced Editing pt2
Advanced Editing
Preview

Journalism students at UF whisper “reporting” and “Foley” in fear. It is supposed to be the hardest class in the curriculum, but the same is said of many classes.

I made the mistake of overloading myself the semester I took reporting. I never believe people when they say a class is hard. My classes have always been as easy as the teacher was engaging. With 15 credits and a part-time job, between Mike Foley and Ted Spiker, the class wasn’t hard, just time consuming.

I remember the first article I got back. 0 points. I started cracking up. And then buckling down.

Reporting was about paying attention. Pay attention to what goes on around, what could turn into a story, what isn’t a story, what’s new and different and interesting. What do you focus on at an event, covering a speech, writing an obituary? I learned to dress nicer when I had to interview someone at school, to wheedle information out of secretaries and receptionists, and that no one at City Hall would call me back no matter how many messages I left.

Pay attention to your writing. It took me longer to proof-read an article than it did to report and write it. I got very paranoid, used different colored pens to circle punctuation, verbs, nouns… And it paid off.

I remember a few students deciding that they didn’t want to be journalists as a result of that class. The writing was too rigid, we could only write hard news, they were stuck in the world of Peter Parker and Hunter Thompson.

The purpose of reporting was to drill all of the rules deep into your mind, so that when you get into the real world, you know how to break them.

Classes in Review Series
Preview
Advanced Editing pt 1
Advanced Editing pt 2
Classes in Review: Advanced Editing pt3